EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: With Common Core, teaching styles must change

2014-03-23T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: With Common Core, teaching styles must changeBy Dwayne Evans nwitimes.com
March 23, 2014 12:00 am  • 

If you follow the recent trends in school education, you should be aware of our latest national initiative, Common Core State Standards. These standards were recommended and designed to support a consistent and rigorous national curriculum that would relate to practical issues and support students’ knowledge and skill development.

In the long run, Common Core should ensure all states (those which have signed on to use them) will teach to the same set of baseline skills. The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by 45 states (including Illinois and Indiana) and the District of Columbia. (Indiana is dropping out.)

The CCSS were established to promote common benchmarks for reading and math. Too often schools across the country taught different material in various levels. In the states that have signed on, CCSS will replace their old state-specific standards .

There are some concerns about the new standards, and there has been an ongoing national debate about the implementation and purpose of the new standards. Some detractors fear the standards may place too much pressure on the earlier grades, requiring younger learners to master skills they may not be developmentally ready to accomplish. Others are concerned about the continued focus on skill development and mastery, while teacher creativity and students’ exposure to the arts may be stifled.

Obviously, Common Core has many supporters, as the U.S. version of a national curriculum, or they would not have been adopted by 45 states.

I don’t see the CCSS as a curriculum that drives what teachers do daily; I see them as a road map of consistency.

Another big component of the CCSS, is that it shifts the learning process from doing to applying, from teachers telling students how to do, to students showing teachers how tasks are done. Also, we should see a shift from teacher-led discussions to students involved in critical thinking discussion to support their learning.

I don’t believe the Common Core standards are a cure-all.

Some say this initiative is not different than others standards-based reforms of the past. To some extent, I agree this reform is similar in that it attempts to shift the pyramid of the American educational system. However, the potential of this reform should not be taken lightly and placed in the box of “this too shall pass.”

School leaders, board members, administrators and teachers must begin to embrace this new way of thinking about education. We must begin to look at how we teach our students in addition to what we teach them. It not enough to change the what, without changing the how.

It is imperative for all stakeholders in the educational field to look critically at how we are teaching our students. Colleges and universities should re-evaluate how they are training teachers to teach the Common Core Standards. School leaders must begin to focus on teachers’ professional development to prepare teachers to shift their teaching techniques to accommodate the critical thinking processes and outcomes expected from the Common Core Standards.

And teachers must become reflective collaborators in order to identify strategies and approaches that can work across diverse students with diverse abilities.

Teachers must be begin to focus less on teaching students to do, and focus more on teaching students the why and how. Then, and only then, will this current initiatives will not end up in the proverbial box of “this too shall past.”

Dwayne Evans is principal of Thornton Fractional North High School. The opinions are the writer's.

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